There actually is a way out of the grueling, impossible binds that parents have found themselves in during the pandemic — and experts gathered to discuss it.
In the third installment of Mashable’s , we hosted a livestream panel on how to fix the childcare system in a post-pandemic world. (September’s theme, one of six themed months, is family and parenting.)
Lyz Lenz, a columnist at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the author of Belabored, a book about the misogyny behind narratives about pregnancy, monitored the panel.
She was joined by Leslie P. Arreola-Hill, the founder of Latinx Parenting and a parenting coach, Christine Michel Carter, the bestselling author of books such as Can Mommy Go To Work?, and MJ Hegar, a U.S. Senate candidate from Texas and Air Force veteran.
Though the panel focused primarily on solutions, Lenz acknowledged that it’s impossible to get there without first identifying the problems with childcare in the U.S., which is what is first discussed in the video above.
“We no longer have our villages. We no longer have established support systems,” Arreola-Hill said. She noted how the skyrocketing cost of childcare has forced many parents to have to pick between working and childcare.
Asked what we lose when parents are forced to drop out of the workforce, Michel Carter explained: “It goes back to our economy. And then, that’s a loss of basically stimulation for our economy. It continues to push down underrepresented and marginalized groups, because those are the ones who going to most likely be the first ones to drop out.”
Hegar stressed the importance of electing representatives who are supportive of the needs of parents, noting that changes are also needed in the political system so those who are not independently wealthy can run for office.
In the meantime, though, Arreola-Hill explained that “we can’t wait until the moment that policy finally says we value childcare,” and detailed small-scale, local solutions that people can take while policy remains stalled. For instance, she’s created a co-op of families in her community who help each other with parenting duties for free, and wants to see policy support these kinds of informal solutions.
Michel Carter added that “all of these solutions need to work in tandem.”
In the main, the panelists felt that what’s necessary is a culture shift. Hegar, for instance, was hopeful that some of the activities that have become normalized during the pandemic, such as kids popping up on Zoom calls, could help people understand that parenting and working are often not separate activities.
Toward the end of the panel, Arreola-Hill, Michel Carter, and Hegar walked through their dream scenarios for childcare solutions post-pandemic.
Michel Carter, for instance, outlined a slew of things she wanted to see, like tax credits for moms from underrepresented groups and other forms of cash support, childcare support from employers, flex work, and better medical leave overall, not just paid maternity leave.
“We just have to shift our priorities, and we have to start looking at families as the foundation of this country,” Arreola-Hill added. “If our families are going to be successful, if our families are going to be given the tools and the support and the systems in place to be able to thrive, then our country is going to thrive.”
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